The government is considering a salary cut for the foreign coaching staff and high-performance directors working with various national teams owing to the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. The ‘thought’ was put forward during an e-meeting between sports minister Kiren Rijiju and top federation officials on Tuesday.
However, it was opposed unanimously by the sports bodies, who argued that such a move could see a mass exodus of coaches in an Olympic year. The federations have, instead, demanded that the contracts of the coaches be extended till 2022 since India will be competing in three major events in a span of 12 months, starting with the 2021 Olympics followed by the 2022 Commonwealth and Asian Games.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has close to 40 foreign coaches and high-performance directors on its payroll, with salaries ranging from $4,000 per month to as high as $15,000 per month. Almost every Olympic team has a foreign coach attached to it. Contracts of all foreigners are set to expire on August 31, since that was initially the end of the Olympic cycle before the Tokyo Games got postponed.
With the Olympics now likely to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021, the federations are seeking extensions for the coaches. A federation official said negotiations are already underway and the sports ministry’s suggestion took them by surprise.
The government even hinted at a budget cut for sporting activities. “It was a conversation. It is a thought within the government that because of the current economic situation in the country, there should be a salary cut for the foreign coaching staff. They shared their thought with us. However, we rejected any such idea,” an official present at the meeting said.
According to the official, the federations told the ministry that even a tiny reduction could see the coaches leave the country and make it nearly difficult for them to find a decent replacement in such a short period. “This is a time when the government has to support the federations and announce bailout packages even for them since a lot of sports will find it tough to get corporate sponsorship. If they can’t do that, they should at least not take away what we have. If a coach leaves us now, how will we get a replacement so close to the Olympics and that too at a lower budget?” another official reasoned.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Rijiju, sports secretary Ravi Mittal, Sports Authority of India director general Sandip Pradhan as well as presidents and secretary generals of the Indian Olympic Association and 15 Olympic disciplines.
The federations have also been asked to plan their calendars and consider the possibilities of having domestic tournaments. It is learnt that a few federations are planning to organise tournaments September onwards if the coronavirus situation improves by then.
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